Capo Recall: The Saam Alikhani Interview.

As was predicted, like sharks to chum, the reactionaries in the Capistrano Unified School District – the defenders of the current pathetic Trustees – have chosen to make mockery of candidate Saam Alikhani’s young age of 18.  This despite the fact that the UCI psych major’s maturity and intelligence are self-evidently higher than that of some of the buffoons we’re aiming to replace – specifically HIS opponent, histrionic thespian and Chriss Street protégé Anna Bryson.

Seeing this ridicule on the deceptively-named “Capo Kids First” Facebook page (so named to confuse voters with the opposing “Capistrano Children First”) a young Army officer whose sister teaches in the district jumped into the fray to defend Saam.  You’ll get to see what he wrote in a second;  but first know that the wonderful patriotic folks running that site scared him off with grim warnings that he might be breaking some military code by expressing his opinion on a political issue, and so the young officer deleted his own comment.

Fortunately someone on OUR side had already copied and saved the whole thread, so we can now reprint the officer’s comment here anonymously so that he doesn’t need to worry about any legal repercussions.  (And SHAME be upon Capo Kids First’s Denise Krane for intimidating a brave officer from expressing himself on an issue dear to his heart.  THESE are the sort of people we’re fighting down in CUSD.)

I only joined this site because my sister is a teacher in CUSD and she has been telling me about what is going on in the district (I live in Alabama for now).

Anyway, I am a conservative Christian and officer in the US Army. My sister is also a conservative Christian and went on strike this year because she believed it was the right thing to do in the prevailing circumstances.

Anyway, my point is that is that, as a 22 year old, I led troops into battle under fire and I have corporals who are 18-19 and have led men in battle and done so admirably. What has made this possible is not their age or life experience but their passion and pride in their job, combined with their training. As far as I am concerned, Saam has spent a year in “on the job” training so, if he has pride and passion why write him off before he has even been given the chance. As a slightly older and wiser officer, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how mature some of our young soldiers are – and I am talking 18 year olds.

The feeling I get from my sister, and from the news media and websites, is that the relationship between trustees and teachers is beyond repair. I am not laying the blame on one party – I think that as with most things in life, it is a result of the actions of both – but I think that a change in leadership is in order. America did not become great by writing somebody off because they are too young or inexperienced. If the powers of the nation believed that an 18 year old was unfit to hold a seat on a school board, then legislation would have been created to prevent it. As is has not, then why should such a young man be slated before he has even spent a day in office. Like I said, I can list you dozens of 18 year-olds with whom I would entrust everything I hold dear to me.

Meet Saam Alikhani, Capistrano Children First Candidate for Area 4
(against Anna Bryson)

On Wednesday Oct. 20’s episode of Radio Orange Juice, Saam sat down with OJ bloggers Vern, Art, Sean and Francisco to talk about his run.  Here are some excerpts (and I’m assuming you watch the above video because I’m leaving out anything addressed there.)

SAAM: This all started two years ago, when I served on the “Site Council,” that is, the governing body, for Dana Hills High School.  And the opportunity came about to be a Student Trustee, and since I really represented the community well at the site level, I felt I could apply that expertise in budgeting to the District level.  And I was fully aware of the politics that would be involved because it’s an elected office.  And unfortunately even School Board has some politics involved in it, right?

But I didn’t know the extent that it would affect the community to its detriment.  And when I got there I saw that these people were making decisions fueled by politics, and really hurting the community, the taxpayers, and the students.

FRANCISCO: Now, since you’ve been serving on the Board for a year, you probably have a lot more knowledge of the issues than a lot of folks who are going to be voting.  So, what are some of those issues that you see, and some of the solutions you propose?

SAAM: The issues I see are, first of all the wasteful spending, and the political environment these Board members have created.  I’ve proposed to hire in-house counsel, to get a grant writer, and to get a Director of Special Education which we still don’t have, which will save us money when there’s litigation, or money when we’re cutting programs.  We need to be pro-active to save money in our district.

Second of all, I think I’d bring a non-partisan approach to the School Board.  I’ve registered Decline To State, and the reason I did is because I don’t want to bring partisan politics into this Board, so whatever my political ideology is I’m going to keep outside for the next four years.   I’m really focused on the students and the taxpayers in the community.

SEAN: I think what you bring to the table is, Who knows more about what’s needed in our schools than the people who are actually trying to LEARN in our schools, who are there every day?  And you’re, what, one year removed?

SAAM: Yeah, I’ve lived in Capistrano Unified for eighteen years, and as a trustee I understand how the decisions are made, and how it impacts the classroom and quality of education firsthand.   I don’t think any of those Trustees up there right now really realize that…

SEAN: That’s a unique perspective.  Most of those folks are… okay.  They want to make an issue of your age.  What do you think the average age is of the folks on the Board right now?

SAAM: I’d probably say around… fifty.

VERN: NO!  I’m fifty!  They all look older than me.

SEAN: So they haven’t been in school for thirty-two years…

SAAM: And actually only ONE of them has kids in the district…

ART: Yeah, a lot of these Republicans who run for school board are actually against public schools, they send their kids to private schools.  That always annoys the hell out of me, when people run for public school boards but send their kids elsewhere.

VERN: Yeah, out of all seven of those Trustees only Winsten has a couple of kids in the district;  Ken Maddox took his out of public school as soon as he got on the Board.

SEAN: That’s actually a very smart move on his part.  Knowing HE was about to be in charge (laughter)

ART: “I’m about to jack everything up here, so I better take you out of these schools…” (laughter)

Maddox. Or Lopez-Maddox. Or Maddox-Lopez.

SEAN: Well I understand Maddox doesn’t even live in the area…

ART: Yeah we were talking earlier about one of Ken’s predecessors, Curt Pringle.  Ken moved from Garden Grove to Dana Point, and a year later ends up on the School Board!  [actually even representing a different “area” from Dana Point]

SAAM: He only has a P.O. Box in Aliso Viejo, he doesn’t even have a permanent address there.

ART: Well, he works in Sacramento for Michelle Steel, I think he’s her secretary, whatever that entails…

VERN: Did you see the movie Secretary?

ART: This guy was an assemblyman, a do-nothing legislator, who was supported by the racist Barbara Coe, they were very tight;  he moves down to Dana Point…

VERN: His shtick is to turn off his microphone at Board meetings and speak real quietly, just to show the voters that what he says and does is none of their business.  Ken Maddox…

SEAN: Aren’t we supposed to be calling him Lopez-Maddox?

VERN: Or is it Maddox-Lopez?

SAAM: Yeah, this guy is on the Recall ballot as Ken Lopez-Maddox, and then on the opposition of who to vote for, it’s just Ken Maddox.  So right there he has two different names, and in the District Office his name is Ken Maddox-Lopez.

ART: What a mess.  Now, isn’t there some guy called Mike Winsten who’s involved in all this?

SAAM: Yeah, he’s a Trial Attorney. [hoots from Art and Sean] It’s funny, because right before Winsten got on the Board, the OC Dept of Education and the DA mandated that CUSD retain In-House Counsel, because what they were doing was illegal.  So there were talks – it was all over the Register – of CUSD looking to get in-house counsel.   But right when Winsten got into office, that all stopped, and next thing you know, we’re hiring big law firms, now to the tune of over $2 million over the past several years. And I think it’s largely because of Winsten, trying to make connections.  It’s unfortunate.

Mike Winsten

VERN: Winsten’s not just a Trial Lawyer, he was a Democrat his whole life too, until he decided he wanted to get on this Board.  Also, if you remember, he threatened to sue our blog.  For reporting that his opponent John Alpay told us that HIS neighbors, when Mike was loitering outside John’s house in his car, thought he MIGHT have been a pedophile.

ART: He DID threaten to sue us!  [laughs] You guys should see the file I have of people who’ve threatened to sue us over the years.   It’s unbelievable…

VERN: Yeah, so this John Alpay, running to replace Winsten, I interviewed him, he’s a real honest conservative Republican –

SAAM: He sits on the Central Committee…

ART: Winsten does?

SAAM: No.  Alpay does.

ART: Nice!

VERN: Yeah, and a lot of these insiders are upset with him for being part of this Recall, they take it real personally, they’ve been harassing him…

SEAN: They’re upset with him for being honest?  For being an honest Republican?

ART: Don’t get me started on the OC GOP, what a disaster.  But anyway…

SAAM: I’ve got an interesting story about Maddox and Winsten.

ART: Uh-oh…

Silly Maddox with some lucky lady

SAAM:  The Teamsters were talking to us, and they said “Maddox is our guy.” And that he brought Winsten in with him for an endorsement, which is really funny, because their whole shtick is anti-union…

VERN: Yeah – you read their propaganda, there’s not one sentence that doesn’t say “union this, union that…”

SAAM: And Maddox and Winsten were denying, denying, denying it, even though we heard it first hand from the Teamsters.  Then there was a candidates’ forum at Dana Point a couple days ago, and Winsten was there (I think Maddox was up in Sacramento)  And at first he was denying it still.  And then finally at the end, we put so much pressure on him that he admitted, yeah, they DID meet with the Teamsters. And if you’re ranking unions, as far as unions go, I mean they’re demonizing the Teachers’ Union, and here they are taking money from Teamsters.  So they’re just using “unions” as a red herring…

ART: So the Teamsters support them?

VERN: Well to be fair the Teamsters seem to be hedging their bets.  They tell me, “We try to keep good relationships with both sides.”  I mean, they represent the bus drivers, and…

SAAM: Yeah, well I mean they… I guess when Maddox was running for Congress and Campbell ran him down, it was because he was a Union lackey.  His voting record…

ART: I was actually involved in that race.  It was a state Senate race, and I actually shot a TV commercial with Campbell, where I was in a hard hat, and played the role of Construction Guy.  And I really despised…

SEAN: Art’s Village People phase.  (laughter)

ART: It was total Village People.  But I really despised Maddox.  He was involved in supporting the Orange County PLA, which shut non-union contractors out of all county projects for a number of years, and actually drove construction costs up and slowed down the projects – it was a total disaster.  Maddox and I go way back, I don’t like the guy, and he IS a union hack.

SEAN: AND don’t forget, it was Ken Maddox who brought Janet Nguyen into power.

Phil Greer, counselor to every OC politico sleazebag known to mankind.

VERN: Okay, to get back, I’ve seen that one of the things you stood strongest against while you were a student trustee was against the hiring of attorney Phil Greer in particular?

SEAN: Oh!  No!  Janet Nguyen’s attorney!

VERN: Yeah, and John Williams’ attorney, all of the OC Supes’ attorney except Moorlach, Chriss Street’s attorney, sometimes I wonder if there are no other attorneys in the OC that will represent all these scumbags…

SAAM: Well, yeah, I saw that Phillip Greer was on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.  As a trustee, it is important to be very informed on the agenda items that you will be taking action on.  So I did some research.  I ended up discovering that he had been reprimanded by the state bar multiple times. I later found out that he is connected with Bryson as well, since they both work for Chriss Street (what a failure!  laughter…)

I concluded that his past actions were not a good reflection of what CUSD and the community stands for.  So at the meeting I brought this up to the trustees and the community.  Yet the Board, as they always did, disregarded my input.  The agenda item was passed, and I dissented.

VERN: Did, um, your vote as a Student Trustee count for anything back then?

SAAM: Well, of course it was just an advisory vote back then, but they disregarded my findings as the adviser as well.  But I do know that the community did recognize my vote. There was a void of community representation on that board.  I was filling that void, I was the community’s vote. And it was my opponent, Anna Bryson, who works for Chriss Street, who proposed this, and…

ART: Wait, Bryson works for Chriss Street??

SAAM: Um.. Yeah.

ART: NO!  WAY!

SAAM: Yeah, she’s been in the paper for wasting taxpayer money on parking passes just to park a little bit closer to her work, and also plane tickets to San Francisco, which she changes at the last minute to the tune of hundreds of dollars…

ART: You’re running against someone who says she’s a fiscal conservative, but likes to waste money when it benefits her.

VERN: You’ve really got to see some of these videos of her in action, she’s so adorable.  One of her most famous statements was to a room full of CAPO parents:  “You are NOT here to question the Trustees!” (Really?)  She is a, well, not so successful actress, a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, but somewhat over-the-top, and it’s fun to observe her wracking her mind to come up with the most 19th-century way to express what she wants to say, while her eyebrows move up and down…

SEAN: I wonder why it was you couldn’t get her on the show tonight… (laughter…)

Meet Anna Bryson, Saam’s opponent (especially at 2:10)
co-starring her allies Winsten and Maddox

ART: So, today was “Wear Purple Day.”  And the whole point of that was to stand up for these kids, the gay kids who are being bullied in schools, six of them have killed themselves in the past month.  What’s your feeling about young people being bullied in schools and sometimes taking their own lives?

SAAM: Well, of course bullying is a problem, and actually in CUSD there’s been an increase in suicides;  we had one last year, I’m pretty sure it was in relation to bullying, but…

ART: Has the Board done anything at all on this issue?

SAAM: The thing is they’ve actually been cutting down on counselors, so we actually had to bring in counselors from other schools to help with the suicides and the deaths in these schools, and that’s very detrimental…

ART: It sounds like they’ve dropped the ball…

SAAM: They have dropped the ball, instead they’re spending money on attorneys and out-of-court settlements for their campaign donors, instead of these counselors and services that we need.

ART: Well listen, I’ve been really impressed with you so far, you know all the issues…

VERN: We haven’t hit all the issues.

ART: Well, let’s talk about some more issues then.  You know, one of the main issues that every school district is dealing with right now is all the budget cutbacks.  Want to talk about that a little bit?

SAAM: Yeah, definitely.  This Board has been CUTTING.  But these other districts have been pro-active in BACKFILLING these programs, right?  They look for federal grants and private grants which are out there.  They are out there.  We don’t even have a grant-writer right now.  We dont’ have a district grant-writer – he left because of the current Board, and the Board never took the initiative to fill that position.

And that’s something that Gary Pritchard, who’s someone else I’m running alongside, he’s running against Maddox, he’s a professional grant-writer.  So that’s something we have to do.  Of course there’s going to be cuts, but we can make them far less severe and far less detrimental to the education of our students, if we take initiative and take advantage of Gary’s experience.

ART: That’s fantastic…

In a sentimental mood, Saam’s opponent Bryson praising Saam…

FRANCISCO: You know what I find amazing and inspiring, Saam, is that here we’re trying to encourage our citizens, our young citizens, to VOTE… like in Santa Ana for example we have a very low voting turnout, yet here at AGE 18 you’re already a leader. And it’s very clear how eloquent, well-spoken, and how you’re thinking on your feet.  But the fact that you’re out there not just voting, but you’re actually LEADING.  And you know, you’re from Iran, but…

SEAN: No, he’s from the United States.

FRANCISCO: Yeah, right, I mean to say that culturally, his parents are from Iran (thankyou, Sean).  But the thing is, in Iran, last year, there was this whole election where people were trying to make their voice count, and many of them lost their lives…

ART: Many young people.

FRANCISCO: And hopefully your involvement will be an inspiration to many of the other youth to get involved with the process, so it’s not just the fifty-year-olds who are running this….

VERN: In Iran, it’s more the seventy-year-olds running things…  By pure co-incidence, I’ve been using the recent history of Iran as a metaphor for what’s going on in the CUSD.  Just to balance off the perceptions and fears of endless recalls and counter-revolutions.  Because remember the guys that are in now came into power because of disgust over the “Fleming Board.”  And now that we’ve seen what crazy extremists these new trustees are, everyone wants to get rid of them, but their apologists say we’re trying to bring back the Fleming Board.

Well, looking at Iran recently, they managed to get rid of the Shah, and ended up with an equally bad but different dictatorship with the Mullahs, the Ayatollahs.  And what they’re needing and striving for is just ONE MORE good revolution, to get real democracy.  And in a much less dramatic way, I think that’s what’s happening right now in CUSD.  I mean, Saam.  Dude. You’re Iranian-American.  Does that comparison sound right to you, or way off?

SAAM: Exactly, you’re right.  Just because you’re fighting what’s going on in the present doesn’t mean you want to go back to the past.

ART: Oh, another thing, the ARTS. A lot of school districts have cut back a lot on the arts, and I really think that when you have kids involved in, not only the visual arts but also music, it enhances the educational experience.  How’s that going with your district?  Have they cut back a lot in that area?

SAAM: Well, there have been cutbacks.  I’m a product of the arts…

ART: Are you really?

SAAM: I’ve played violin for about six years, and it was very enjoyable and really motivated me to go to school.  So I understand how important these programs are for the youth, and that means we have to protect them.  So, I know definitely there’s a lot of grants out there.  And also, partnerships with the community are tremendous.  We went to San Juan Capistrano and were talking to local community members who were willing to put their time into this and be mentors to students in a time of great budget cuts, so… We just have to be pro-active and reach out to the community, which is something this Board will never do.

FRANCISCO: You know one of the great things about the arts?  Is that it brings out the creative juices in people, and that’s actually what you need a lot of times in business to be successful.  So… the other thing too that I like when the youth get involved like yourself is that – I got a 22-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.  And I remember when they were around 18 or 19, where, THEY DON’T LIKE THE B.S.  You know, they said, just go straight to the point…

ART: It’s the South Park Generation.  [laughter]  They’ve grown up watching a cartoon that has libertarian ideals.  And when I look at people in this age group… You’re exactly right Paco, they don’t like B.S., they want the facts, they tend to be very independent… well, talk about that Saam, do you see that too?

SAAM: Yeah, it is kind of that mind set that made me speak up on the Board last year, when I tried to stop them from wasting money on these attorneys when we could have just used the in-house counsel of the Dept. of Education provided by Orange County which is what EVERY OTHER DISTRICT USES, and is free!

ART: But they wasted a ton of money that could have been spent on…

SAAM: Yeah, and meanwhile parents are bringing in reams of paper for registration and orientation, and we don’t even have enough supplies to adequately run our schools.

A message from Saam, Gary Pritchard, and Lynn Hatton

SEAN: So how do you stack up financially against these people you’re running against?

SAAM: Children’s First has accumulated over $90,000 from 900 different donors all inside the district, so you know it’s really a grass-roots effort.

VERN:  Regular citizens.  None of it from the “unions.”

ART: And speaking of NON-regular citizens, I just got a text message:  Edwin Meese the Third, former Attorney General For Reagan, supports Bryson. I didn’t even know this guy was still alive, he must be older than dirt!

VERN: Oh God, that guy was a clown, a travesty.  He put all of Justice’s attention into marijuana and pornography and ignored all the corporate and environmental crime that went down back then… it was before your time Saam…

ART: He sounds just like our Tony Rackauckas!

(everybody laughs, it’s true…)

SEAN: Who the hell cares who Edwin Meese supports, does he even live in that district?

SAAM: NO!  And these are just the sort of outside interests that we don’t need …

ART: Oh – I’ve just got another message:  Reagan’s Ghost is endorsing Saam.

SEAN: Excellent!  Excellent, that’s much better than Edwin Meese.

VERN, in basso profundoSAAM, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL.

FRANCISCO: I’m remembering this saying: “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and loyalty.”

EVERYONE: Oh no!  That can’t be true!

ART: I just got a nice text message here from Susan Goggins, who says she knows you…

VERN: Yeah, we know her…  Here’s the message:

I watched Saam serve this past year.  He was more knowledgeable and better prepared at each meeting than any of the Trustees.  I am one of the ten petitioners to recall Winsten and Maddox.  They have caused so much damage and havoc to this District.  I was more than happy to sign my name to the petition.  I personally heard and witnessed Mike Winsten stating right after he was elected that he would support the changes to the way we elected trustees (now Measure H.)  which he’s now against.

VERN: That’s a long-ass text.  And now we got a new comment on our blog, from someone called Tom…

Capistrano voters
If you want to restore integrity to our district, stop out of control spending, and wasteful use of tax payer dollars then please follow the voter guide below:

“Yes” on Recall – Recall Trustees Lopez-Maddox and Winsten
“Yes” on H – to change to a vote by trustee area system
and “Yes” for:
Saam Alikhani
Gary Pritchard
Lynn Hatton
Martha McNicholas
John Alpay

Recall, Remove and Recover!

ART: I love that slogan.  Recall, remove, recover. I sure hope Capo Unified manages to recover.  Moving on…


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.